Chilled Carrot-Ginger Bisque

Chilled Carrot-Ginger Bisque

Yes, you can eat chive flowers. Whole or torn into florets. Promise. Didn’t you eat or suck on sweet clover flowers as a kid?

One day last week I went out to the garage refrigerator for carrots. It’s a common occurrence at our house as I typically buy and store a 5-pound bag of carrots in the produce bin of that fridge. While it sounds like a lot of carrots, they’re cheap in that quantity ($2.99 for 5 pounds–what else is less than 60 cents a pound?) and they last a long time. Even better, I’m never out of them for soup, stew, or just for a vegetable. It’s also not terribly unusual for me to make carrot soup as it’s lovely, healthy, fast, and can be made in several different flavor profiles. I didn’t start out with carrot soup in mind on said day, but I certainly got there pretty fast as my carrots were growing white hair — sprouting, getting ready for planting! I peeled and used the carrot I needed, but knew carrot soup, cake, bread, soufflé, salad, or gratin was in the offing. Because I wasn’t throwing away 8 or 9 carrots no matter how little they cost.

I’m reminded of a simple meme that says volumes. It goes something like, “A single carrot doesn’t seem too awfully important. Unless it took you 3 months to grow it.” And, by the way, if you’re lucky enough to get carrots with all the green frills on top, the green part is edible, too. A little carrot top pesto might be good for the soul. VEGETABLES ARE AMAZING!

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WHAT’S FOR DINNER?  Solved for the Whole Summer!!

WHAT’S FOR DINNER? Solved for the Whole Summer!!

SUMMER WEEKNIGHT MEAL PLANNING IS DONE. MAKE THESE 20 FUN RECIPES 3X EACH. Print them, along with a shopping list, place in a 3-ring binder or save them to a word file so you know just where they are for the next couple of months. Then make them again…and again!

Tired of trying to figure out what’s for dinner on any given night in June, July, or August? The summer struggle is real even if you sometimes take the time to write down the week’s menu and make a grocery list. Cooking at home for yourself, friends, or a family is a big commitment, but it’s also a wonderful thing to do to focus on health and togetherness; improve the use of your time; and rein in that food budget. Here’s a post highlighting 20 fun, MORE TIME AT THE TABLE lighter/easier recipes you can make over and over again — or with variations. I had an awful time choosing between so many yummy dinners and had to leave out things like Shrimp Ratatouille and BBQ Chicken Grilled Veggie Stack — next time, right? You can be sure your planning, shopping, prep, and cooking will become simpler/faster as you become better acquainted with each meal. Just click on RECIPE HERE to take you to the post, then scroll down to the recipe (there is sometimes a “jump to recipe” button) and print. Do throw in a COOK’S OFF! night every now and then so you can order pizza, go out, or let someone else make eggs and toast when you’re tired. If you like, make a big batch soup or extra chicken breasts once a week you can then also use for lunch. After the recipes, I’ve included some seasonal desserts, meal-planning basic information, cooking with kids ideas, and a few great links to get you going. So choose your favorites, make that grocery list (keep it on your phone from month to month?), and then it’s time to get busy with happy summer cooking!

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Tarragon Vinaigrette (French Tarragon Class, Part 3)

Tarragon Vinaigrette (French Tarragon Class, Part 3)

To make the Zucchini-Tomato Salad, layer thinly sliced zucchini+tomatoes in a circle, add flaky salt, fresh ground black pepper and drizzle with my Tarragon Vinaigrette. For best taste, cover and refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.

This is the third recipe from my French Tarragon Cooking Class. If you’re interested in the other two recipes, here they are:


Not far from our house in Colorado Springs are three yummy “French” restaurants whose names each contain the words, “La Baguette.” It may be that when we first moved to the city they were owned by the same person, though I think they no longer are. We have plain old La Baguette, in Old Colorado City, which is not only the cafe but also a top-notch bakery — still for all 3 locations, I think — and is closest to me. Then there’s La Baguette and Espresso Bar downtown on Pike’s Peak, but only a stone’s throw away. Last, but certainly not least, is La Baguette French Bistro a few miles to the north and east on Chestnut, which is all decked out with Parisian memorabilia and is a favorite “girls” lunch spot, though husband Dave and I have been known to hit them up for dinner occasionally. While the très tasty menus are these days varied from place to place, in my memory at least, they all still serve up a fresh-fresh side salad — just greens — that comes with a lovely tarragon vinaigrette. Tarragon vinaigrette is nothing more than a basic vinaigrette with fresh tarragon added.

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Colorado Bean Dip for Memorial Day

Colorado Bean Dip for Memorial Day

In 2020, our ubiquitous all-American cookouts — which roar on ad infinitum Mother’s Day through Labor Day — were often a tad sad little affairs if we had them at all. Instead of the jumbo party packs of burgers and brats, unending veggie or cheese trays, boxes of big cupcakes, and the super-sized bag of red, white, and blue paper napkins to last all summer long, we were buying a single pound of ground beef, 4 buns, a pint of vanilla, and left the colored napkins on the shelf. Fireworks, if available on the 4th, were viewed from apartment building balconies or hillside decks. We were masked and our celebrations felt the same.

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Rhubarb Clafoutis

Rhubarb Clafoutis

While this sweet might be among the more difficult dessert names to pronounce, it’s also the simplest to make and make well. Clafoutis (clah-FOO-tee) —and yes, I must keep remembering it’s a singular noun! — is a much-loved and often-baked traditional French dessert that is a cross between a custard and a cake, but easier and faster to make than either one. When cherries (or raspberries, blueberries…) are in season and hence plentiful-cheap, the oven is heated along with a cast iron pan (can also use a casserole), a quick batter is whirred together in the food processor, blender, or by hand and poured right into that the pan. The fruit gets distributed on top and into a HOT oven it all goes for just a half hour or so. And there’s dessert, friends. At first it’s all hot and puffy golden brown if you like it that way (think Dutch Baby), but soon it calms and cools down and is just as good, if a tad deflated. Cold for breakfast the next morning? Of course. Bien sur!

How to pronounce CLAFOUTIS (Listen up!)

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Herbed Goat Cheese Spread (French Tarragon Class, Part 2)

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread (French Tarragon Class, Part 2)

Travels well!

In southern France, I’m reading they’re already cooking the first of the courgettes (zucchini) and beans while here on the edge of the Rocky mountains snow will fly tonight and we’re damned lucky to have the first of our garden’s bounty, which is always herbs. When spring is trying ever so hard to be sprung in Colorado and my herbs have just begun to come on, there’s nothing like focusing on all of them (and little else) to make an herbaceous melody of a cheese spread perfect for favorite crackers, grilled baguette, vegetables, stuffed tiny sweet peppers or cherry tomatoes, omelet fillings, and more.

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Poached Salmon with Tarragon-Chive Aioli and Lemon Asparagus (French Tarragon Class, Part 1)

Poached Salmon with Tarragon-Chive Aioli and Lemon Asparagus (French Tarragon Class, Part 1)

Bring seasoned water to a boil; add salmon; remove from heat and rest, covered, until done. Yes, that’s all.

While it always sounds like a joke, it definitely isn’t. There really are entire series of cooking classes devoted to BOILING WATER. As in, “He can’t boil water.” Well, kinda-sorta, but yes:

Andrew Zimmern’s Kitchen Adventures — Boiling Water 101 was a class I taught for 10 years at a local school in Minnesota. This recipe was one I designed to teach a basic skill but also deliver complex flavors and serve as a touchstone for family meals or entertaining. You really need to practice braising/poaching/blanching as often as you can because wet-heat cooking is much more subtle than dry-heat cooking but so much easier. Recipes like this will change your outlook on cooking for sure. Get wet! 

Andrew Zimmern

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Oven-Fried Fish Tacos for Cinco de Mayo

Oven-Fried Fish Tacos for Cinco de Mayo

When we had kids at home and both worked full-time, tacos were on the regular weeknight dinner rotation, often on Tuesday because — Taco Tuesday. There were no special steak or roast pork or shrimp versions on tiny charred handmade corn tortillas topped with an amazing variety of fresh, crunchy vegetables and choice of piquant sauces. Instead our kitchen turned out pans and pans of ground meat specials served up on oven-heated stacks of flour tortillas and topped them off with shredded lettuce, fresh tomatoes, and grated cheese — whatever kind was on sale. We always had jarred salsa, too, of course, probably the kind made in New York City even though we lived in San Antonio for 4 years. Like them or not; that was dinner. Mostly they liked them. If there was meat leftover (and this was a big if), there might be a taco salad the next night. You could guess: lettuce, ground beef taco meat, tomatoes, cheese, crushed tortilla chips, and bottled creamy Caesar dressing were the ingredients. Olives if we were lucky. As time changed and incomes increased, there was the occasional fajita meal featuring both grilled chicken and steak along with a big bowl of sautéed or grilled onions and peppers and a dish of Abuelita’s Rice. While fajitas still fall into our summer cooking routine these days —or even in the winter if I do the sheet pan version — the tomato-y, chili powder laden ground beef tacos have gone the way of boxed macaroni and cheese and canned tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches for Saturday lunch. Only a tiny sigh here.

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Clean Out the Fridge Chicken Pasta–Don’t Look for This Dish in Italy

Clean Out the Fridge Chicken Pasta–Don’t Look for This Dish in Italy

Over the years, I’ve taught a number of Italian cooking classes, one more enjoyable than the last and no doubt I’ve learned as much as anyone in the groups. A few minutes are always spent discussing the basic courses of an Italian meal while listening to a stellar Italian opera aria or two, though we rarely have time to make them all, more’s the pity. Having traveled to Italy a number of times, I learned it was no secret Italians themselves only have time for such luxurious repasts during special family get-togethers, Sundays, or holidays — much like Americans. In Naples, a tour guide confided to me, “We love just pasta for lunch; it’s a favorite. Or pizza!” It was cool hearing that.

Here in the states, pasta is rarely a first course (“primi”), which it is for that special Italian meal:

Primo / Primi or primo piatto / primi piatti – first plate/s, usually pasta or risotto; you could also have a “bis di primi” or “tris di primi”, where they give you a small portion of two or three different types of pasta so you can sample.

ITALY Magazine

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Cauliflower-White Bean Soup with Pancetta

Cauliflower-White Bean Soup with Pancetta

Listen to the Julliard String Quartet/Last Movement, Beethoven String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2….while you read!

You might — or might not — know that around my own house I’m known as “The Soup Queen.” I’m proud of my moniker and after all these years of souping, I choose to believe I deserve it. I can make a fancy-schmancy soup, having bought every single ingredient for it at a certain expense (Let’s say a gorgeous seafood stew for Christmas Eve, for instance), but there’s also the very good chance I’ll look in the refrigerator and pantry to come up with dinner based on what just happens to be lying around looking sad and sorry. Folks who know me have probably had a pot or bowl of soup left on their doorstep at some time or another — maybe when they weren’t feeling up to snuff or when I had more soup than my freezer would hold. Others have shown up for a dinner party only to find two big pots of soup on the stove and a big basket of bread on the counter along with several bottles of my favorite wines. My friend Jean, who gets a little soup every week lately as she’s recovering from a back injury, likes to say, “Please keep me on your soup list!” It makes a woman feel good.

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